Challenge assumptions

We all make assumptions, based on experience or what we think we know. And make decisions based on those assumptions. If it’s a small thing, there’s minor risk. You don’t want to spend forever on this.

But if it’s bigger, you should be challenging your assumptions. That’s difficult if you don’t realise what they all are, as they can be implicit. To deal with this, work in a team, as that’s much more likely to bring assumptions out. You can start to search for evidence, to test your assumptions.

An engineering contact once showed us the small round plates they made with holes punched through, which they polished to a high shine. Their customer used them to fix to the inside of fibreglass boat hulls, to attach fittings. They had to rough up the shiny surfaces first to create a good surface for the glue. Neither the engineer nor the customer thought to challenge their own assumptions. Both did unnecessary work, until someone (us) asked why they did it that way.

Are there alternatives?

“Everyone should….” Why should they? Heuristics trip us up here, specifically the availability heuristic, which means the explanation that comes to mind first. It worked for you last time, which is why you think of it first, but usually the context is different. Check yourself – is the context the same? Don’t muddle facts with inferences. That first inference leads to others, taking you further and further away from the facts. Stop, get all the facts. Stop again, reflect. Otherwise, you tend to dive down a rabbit hole caused by the first inference.

TIP 1: Start using the scientific method. Treat your hypothesis as wrong and try to disprove it. If you can, you were right to challenge it.

Are there contradictions?

This is more difficult, as it means you must know what good evidence looks like. Can you prove it independently? And how do you evaluate it? Don’t hug your ideas to yourself as being the only solution. Whilst you want to get with your new idea, don’t do that at the expense of a test first. Be humbler and accepting of other routes to your answer.

TIP 2: Be especially careful if what you are thinking of changing is customer related. Do the easy thing – ask your customers first. After all, no one else pays you.

What is important?

What factors are there that influence how the business is going or will be going? When you have time, think of what changes in the business environment there are and what may be in the future. Consider technology, markets, the overall economic climate, political changes, labour market and so on. Then, you can spot these potential changes during your day and make room for them in your thinking. We incorporate this as part of strategy planning with our clients, along with other factors, all centred on you, the business owner. You would be surprised how much your decisions can incorporate these macro factors to your benefit. 


As ever, context is essential to any decision. Consider this first. What is the big picture, and how does this issue fit into it? What is irrelevant? Which attitudes do we have that are helpful or unhelpful? Again, don’t assume, seek alternative views, especially if any of your decisions have a customer impact. Only then dive into the detail. That’s usually the easy part, so avoid it and do the hard stuff first. Context, context, context!

Let’s round up

Challenge assumptions

Consider alternatives

Look for contradictions

What is important

Look for context

And practice these habits so that they become second nature. To be successful, you don’t have to be brilliant. You simply need to avoid failure. Leave failure to your competitors.

How we can help you

We are all about helping you achieve the best life-work (not work-life) balance for you. We do what you need to keep you on the right side of the taxman, answer all your questions, and make helpful suggestions.

Always recognising that your business is a tool for you, not an end. We help you plan to live your best life for longer.

Freedom and independence are the keys to success, so book a free Business Energizer session with us to find out how to achieve it.